An absorbing story about how it sometimes takes silence to make a person hear.


Facing an imminent operation that will leave her permanently deaf, a teenage girl tries to make certain that her life is in order before the world of sound vanishes forever in this debut novel by college student Abelson.

Seventeen-year-old Charlotte Goode suffers from a rare genetic disorder called Type II Neurofibromatosis that causes tumors to constantly pop up along her nervous system. Now she has found out that tumors are growing on her auditory nerves and that the operation to remove them will leave her permanently deaf—a frightening prospect made even worse by her love of music. As the operation approaches, her boss at the music magazine gives her an assignment to pick a local band for a benefit. Both of the boys who lead the respective bands in contention attract her, and she doesn’t know which to choose. As she wrestles with the decision, her family life is in upheaval. Will she be able to resolve everything before her operation? This is an impressive first novel by the author, who based it on the accounts of a woman who suffered from Type II Neurofibromatosis. Although most characters are well-drawn and complete, the best is Charlotte. She faces life and the news of her impending deafness with a mixture of wry observations and down-to-earth practicality, with nary a trace of self-pity. The author wisely refrains from filling pages with rhapsodic descriptions of the sound of birds, the roar of the ocean, the whispering of the wind, etc., which would have quickly grown tiresome and maudlin. The plot of the book is trite, basically boiling down to: Who is Mr. Right? What saves it from being an After School Special is how Charlotte handles her impending deafness with maturity. An unsatisfying note is struck by Charlotte’s brother-in-law, who seems to not like Charlotte because of her illness. One wishes that he would suffer just a little comeuppance for his mean-spiritedness. Otherwise, the novel moves smartly to its conclusion, with plenty of poignant moments along the way.

An absorbing story about how it sometimes takes silence to make a person hear.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1475273090

Page Count: 272

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2013

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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